Last week I attended a meeting for a women’s retreat planning team that I am serving on at our parish. The retreat will be this fall and I am really looking forward to both the experience of going through formation with my fellow team members and the opportunity to “give” the retreat this fall to other female parishioners.
One of the purposes of some of our initial formation meetings is for the team members to really get to know each other. So we have started sharing some about our life histories, especially highlighting significant experiences that we have had on our faith journeys.
One of the women in our group this week was talking about a time in her life when she was having a lot of health problems. She found herself questioning her faith and God and saying, “Why me?! Why is this happening to me and not to someone else?!” I think most of us in that group (and probably many of you reading this) could relate to that statement and times in our lives when we have wondered the same thing.
Then this woman went on to share that after thinking and praying about her situation for awhile she came to the conclusion, “I’m that someone.”
She shared that at that time in her life she was not married, she didn’t have children or many important people or things that she was responsible for. She determined that by this happening to her, by her being “that someone,” that maybe in some way she was keeping such trials from happening to someone else.
This was the first time I had ever heard someone describe this as an explanation and find this kind of meaning in why she, of all people, went through such a difficult and uncertain time in her life.
I appreciated her way of thinking and liked the idea that she saw herself having been able to sacrifice in her own life as a way to help save others, so they would not have to experience the same level of pain and suffering that she did. It definitely got me thinking about my own life and the challenges I have faced. It made me wonder if through my essentially “taking the statistical bullet” for others, if in some ways I have been able to spare other loved ones (or strangers) from going through as much pain or suffering as I have experienced in my life.
Not long after this retreat team meeting, I was having lunch with my parents. I shared with them the idea I had heard of being “that someone” who faces trials and through doing so might be able to spare others some level of pain and suffering. After talking with them for a bit, my mom encouraged my dad to share a story from his life that they were not sure if I had heard before.
As it turns out before my dad was drafted into the Army to serve in Vietnam in the late 1960s, he had the opportunity to avoid the draft if he had chosen to stay in graduate school for just one more semester. If he had done so, then would have turned 27, making him too old to be drafted at the time. This much I knew. I had heard that part of his story many times before. I knew that my dad had taken his chances and did not stay on that additional semester and ultimately got drafted and did go to Vietnam. I feel blessed and lucky that he was able to come home safely after his time in the service was over. However, what my dad shared next (and what my mom was thinking of when she suggested he tell me the story again), I do not recall hearing in the past.
One of the main reasons my dad took his chances that he would be drafted if he left grad school at that time, is that he believed that if he was not “that someone,” then another person, maybe even someone less fortunate, who had grown up with less privileges and opportunities in his life, would be drafted and could end up dying in the war in his place.
I was moved by my dad’s selflessness in this situation, especially as a newlywed who had his entire marriage, family life and career ahead of him. I also was impressed that my dad took the idea of being “that someone” a step further, from thinking of it as a way to “make sense of” or “find some good in” the challenges and tough decisions that we face in life to actually choosing to put yourself in a dangerous, uncomfortable or even painful situation in order to spare another human being from the possibility of suffering.
So two of my perfect moments this week have come from seeing the experience of suffering in a new light. I learned from my fellow retreat team member and my own father how each of them chose to look at some of the challenges and difficult choices they have faced in their lives as opportunities to be “that someone.”
Though much of the time we do not get to choose whether or not we want to be “that someone,” I do appreciate the idea that we can find some peace, comfort and meaning in believing that by being “that someone,” we might in some way be able to spare another human being from having to experience significantly more pain and suffering in their lives.
Thank you for reading. I hope that this post finds you in good spirits and I wish you many perfect moments in your lives in the week to come. To my Christian brothers and sisters, I wish you a blessed Holy Week as we prepare for Easter. To my Jewish brothers and sisters, I wish you happy and peaceful Passover. Thank you also for your kind words, thoughts and prayers this week as we remember our baby girl Molly who was born and died three years ago.
Lori from Write Mind Open Heart says that “Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.” I love the idea of being mindful of and blogging about perfect moments. I know historically I have used my blog more to write about things I am struggling with and though I know that is valid and important for me at times, I appreciate the idea of being intentional about also sharing the simple and very special moments in our lives. Many thanks to Lori for this idea, a wonderful opportunity to focus on what is right in our life, instead of what is wrong.
Click here to read about and comment on more Perfect Moments (there are links to others’ posts at the bottom of Lori’s blog entry) this Monday and/or add a link to one of your own.